Saturday, February 09, 2008

"Don't Squat with Your Spurs On"

Artwork begins today for our St. Valentine's Day flash fiction fun. This evocative piece comes from Jean-Pierre Jacquet, renowned for his marvelous artwork for Hardluck Stories last year. This piece is called Plumb Lines.

Sometimes I find myself going to a ridiculous amount of trouble to get a small detail ( that probably no one will ever notice) correct in a story. Right now I am trying to find the exact phrase a cowboy uses to get the cattle moving and to that end spent most of the morning looking at sites, fascinating but time-consuming to find this out. It ended with my emailing a cowboy. Let's see if he responds to my strange question.
Do you do this too or is it just me? What's the most ridiculous piece of information you got by doing this? I can't tell you how much I found out about being a midwife in England like this a few years ago. I'm still getting emails asking me if I still intend to enroll in a training hospital in London.
And you can imagine what happened when I googled "school girls" once looking for the correct dress at private schools.
The Internet, a curse or blessing.

9 comments:

socalledauthor said...

methlabs, drug use, and age of consent laws are the three i've spent the most time researching.

i laughed at your school girls search. probably some naughty ones in those search results... ;-)

pattinase (abbott) said...

Not a pretty sight, to say the least.

Anonymous said...

Not a "Rawhide" fan? "Head 'em up. Move 'em out!" :-))

And Carol Kane did the most hysterical song and dance version of that song in "The Lemon Sisters" I can't hear that song without picturing her swinging the microphone like a lariat.

Worse search - finding out about the harvesting and sale of bear gall bladders. Found out more than I wanted to and decided not to write the story.

Sandra Seamans

pattinase (abbott) said...

Oh, jeez. What do they use bear gall bladders for? Oh, never mind. I'll goggle it. Hah!

Anonymous said...

Supposed to be better than the little blue pill.

Sandra

Stephen Blackmoore said...

Most ridiculous and specific? Sodomy laws in Georgia.

I'll usually dig around for details but the more granular they are, the less likely I'm going to keep them.

I critiqued a chapter of somebody's Civil War novel once. He knew his subject as thoroughly as anyone ever could.

This was a problem. He spent five pages on the composition of the breakfast that the Confederate sheriff who didn't go to war (never explained why he didn't go, by the way) was eating. Did you know that since coffee was scarce they had to use ground up okra seeds? Me either, but I do now.

I think the details that we lose are just as important as the details we keep. The reader can fill in a lot of blanks.

I'm actually in the middle of writing a (pseudo)western for an anthology. I know bupkes about what cowboys say outside of John Wayne movies. But I don't think I need to if I make it sound western enough.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I have a guy in my writing group who just did an historical novel on Custer's guide and needed that sort of detail. He did keep in well under control but when you're reading diaries that spell it all out, it's tempting to include it all.

Chuck said...

When I was in high school, I spent a week one summer at the D Bar A Scout Ranch just north of Oxford, Michigan. I was assigned my own horse, Firecracker, for that week and every evening, we had to go out on the small range that they had and move the small herd of cattle back to the corral. What I said to the cattle that I rounded up was "hey bossie." However, what I found was that it didn't really matter what I said. It was the horse that moved the cattle.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I've heard that before. That horses instinctually know when to move. Hey, Bossie. It might work. Thanks.